Documentation Projects

Here are my thoughts on getting a writing project going. This is probably way more than what you think is necessary—way overly formal. But you might find it interesting to run it like a "real" project.

Initial Meeting

Get together with the client and explore these issues:

Formal Proposal

It is probably a good idea to formalize this process and proposal for the educational value of it. The proposal will be like part 1 of your contract with the client, defining what you agree to do. It will echo back to the client what you heard in the initial meeting. Getting it down on paper or in electrons will enable clarifications and corrections.

The proposal should have these sections:

Documentation Plan

You can copy in a lot of the proposal into this document. The documentation plan is like the official blueprints of your project—part 2 of your contract with the client. It should include:

You really should plan on at least one interim draft midproject—maybe a chapter. That way, if the client is really unhappy about something, you can fix it now and not have it hit you when you thought the project was done.

Project Tracking and Post Mortem

You really should watch how much time you spend on this project so that you can see how that compares to your original estimates. You can use an online timesheet that I have written. You'll appreciate this data as you go on to other projects.

You might want to put all this stuff online so that it is centrally and readily available to all parties. Googledocs is probably a good place.

After the project is over, you might want to get together and discuss how it went. Maybe your estimates were off; maybe the client was not available as much as you had expected. Maybe there were some problems you could have anticipated and will do so next project. Maybe someone can summarize this post mortem discussion, and you can put this whole project into some nice little history file.